Río Turbio Mine

From Global Energy Monitor


This article is part of the Global Coal Mine Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.

Río Turbio Mine or Mina Río Turbio is a coal mine in Argentina.


The map below shows Mina Río Turbio, near the municipality of Río Turbio, Santa Cruz province, Argentina.

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Energy shortages during the Second World War prompted Argentina to undertake development of coal reserves near Río Turbio, in the southern province of Santa Cruz.[1] The Río Turbio mine began operating in 1943[2], under the auspices of YPF Mineral Coal Division, Argentina's national mining agency. Operations at Río Turbio continued growing during the following decade, with expansion of the mine itself, development of a coal processing facility, and construction of a train line to transport coal from Río Turbio to Río Gallegos, from where it was shipped up the coast to the Port of Buenos Aires.[1]

On August 6, 1958, the new company Yacimientos Carboniferos Fiscales (YCF) was created, which took over the functions of the YPF Mineral Coal Division. Under YCF's management, annual coal production reached 570,000 tonnes per annum in 1972[3] and 1 million tpa by the end of the 1970s.[4] A period of stagnation followed, as hydroelectric and nuclear power became seen as viable alternatives to coal.[3]

In 1994 YCF was privatized and renamed YCRT (Yacimientos Carboníferos Río Turbio, S.A.). Between 1994 and 2002, this new entity was owned and operated by the Taselli group, a conglomerate of companies that came to include Aceros Zapla, Materfer, Massey Fergusson, and Argentina's Metropolitan Railways.[3]

Under the 1994 privatization deal, YCRT was to receive a state subsidy of 22.5 million pesos for 10 years and a contract to supply coal to the San Nicolás thermal power plant, owned by North American energy company AES. The agreement stipulated that AES would pay 20% more than prevailing market rates for Río Turbio coal. Even so, the Taselli group failed to meet minimum production and investment quotas, reducing staff and transferring machinery to other Taselli-owned companies.[3]

In August 2001, the Argentine government stopped subsidizing YCRT, and the San Nicolás plant stopped its coal purchases. In January 2002, the Taselli Group abandoned the concession and in May the company declared bankruptcy, with former owner Sergio Taselli eventually being put on trial for alleged fraud. In 2002 Argentine president Eduardo Duhalde decided to intervene in the mine, making YCRT the first privatized Argentine company to return to state ownership.[3]

Between 2004 and 2018 the mine was plagued by repeated allegations of mismanagement and corruption.[4] By 2007 the Río Turbio project employed more than 2,800 people[3], yet production during this period fell from 308,000 tonnes per annum in 2006[5] to 30,000 tpa during the presidency of Cristina Fernández. Press reports from this period speak of idle workers, excessive bonuses and newly purchased equipment languishing unused in warehouses.[4]

In September 2015, during her campaign for re-election, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner officially inaugurated the new Río Turbio power station, which was designed to supply electricity to the national grid using coal from the Río Turbio mine.[6] However, the plant had to be shut down just 48 hours after the ceremony, with some plant officials subsequently branding the 2015 start-up as a premature and misguided campaign stunt that caused lasting damage to the plant.[7]

In February 2016, work at Río Turbio was suspended by Argentina's new president Mauricio Macri. Speaking to a group of mayors and legislators from the Río Turbio region in May 2016, Macri said, “I have been informed that [the mine] is not viable... and they have built a coal plant that doesn't work. My advisers tell me that the mine is not in a position to produce, and that we must import coal from Chile.”[3]

As of October 2016, operations at the new power plant remained paralyzed due to insufficient coal production at the mine. The Argentine newspaper La Nación reported that the Río Turbio mine was barely capable of producing 10% of the 100,000 tonnes of coal required for the plant's monthly operations, and attributed this shortfall to the misappropriation of funds earmarked for technological improvements to the mine.[8]

A feature story published by La Nación in September 2017 stated that future development of the Río Turbio power plant was contingent on the mine's ability to increase coal production from 80,000 tonnes annually to the 1.2 million tonnes required by the power station's two units. The entire project remained paralyzed by widespread allegations of corruption and misappropriations of funds dating back more than a decade, with at least 13 pending lawsuits directed at former Argentine Planning Minister Julio De Vido and other government officials involved with the project.[9]

In September 2018 YCRT announced that the mine's production would be increased to 30,000 tons a month beginning in December 2018, which would be sufficient to power the plant.[10] Company officials projected that annual production would increase to 500,000 tonnes by 2020 and 1 million tonnes by 2025. Coal sales from the mine were expected to reach US$12 million in 2019 and exceed US$24 million in 2020.[4]

In early 2019, the port of Punta Loyola became operational, facilitating YCRT's first export of coal in six years, which consisted of 25,000 tonnes shipped to southern Brazil. Over the next year, YCRT continuously produced coal for the first time in 10 years, averaging 30,000 tonnes per month.[3]

In May 2020, the Argentine government announced that it was transferring responsibility for the Río Turbio power station from IEASA (Integración Energética Argentina S.A., a public agency administered by Argentina's Secretary of Energy) to YCRT.[11] The transfer was made at the request of YCRT's comptroller Aníbal Fernández, who affirmed the company's renewed commitment to selling coal-fired energy from the Río Turbio plant.[12]

Project Details

  • Owner: Yacimientos Carboníferos Río Turbio (YCRT)
  • Parent company: Yacimientos Carboníferos Río Turbio (YCRT)
  • Location: Río Turbio, Santa Cruz province, Argentina
  • GPS coordinates: -51.538363, -72.324353 (exact)
  • Mine status: Operating
  • Start year: 1943[2]
  • Mineable reserves: 450 million tonnes[2]
  • Coal type: Sub-bituminous[5]
  • Mine size:
  • Mine type: Underground
  • Production: 360,000 tonnes per annum[10]
  • Additional proposed production:
  • Equipment:
  • Number of employees: 400[4]

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Razones y Origines de la Empresa YCF". Mi Río Turbio. Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Río Turbio: Historia de la ciudad y Leyendas de la zona". InterPatagonia. Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 "Yacimientos Carboníferos Río Turbio". Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre. Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "La mina de Río Turbio volvió a producir y proyectan alcanzar a niveles históricos". Clarín. April 22, 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Encrucijadas #45". Universidad de Buenos Aires. Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  6. "Cristina inaugura parte de la central Termoeléctrico de Río Turbio". La Nación. September 4, 2015.
  7. "Aníbal Fernández gana poder: manejará también la obra de la Usina de Río Turbio investigada por sobreprecios". Clarín. May 15, 2020.
  8. "La central a carbón de Río Turbio, paralizada y a la espera". La Nación. October 25, 2016.
  9. "Río Turbio, una mina convertida en símbolo de la corrupción". La Nación (in español). September 10, 2017.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Río Turbio iniciará una producción de 360.000 toneladas anuales de carbón para exportar a Chile". Telam. September 27, 2018.
  11. "BOLETIN OFICIAL REPUBLICA ARGENTINA - MINISTERIO DE DESARROLLO PRODUCTIVO - Decreto 473/2020". Ministerio de Desarrollo Productivo (in español). May 14, 2020.
  12. "Nación transfirió a la empresa YCRT la obra de la Central Térmica". Ahora Calafate. May 15, 2020.

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External resources

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